Apogee View – July/August 2017

July/August 2017
Barry Baines, WD4ASW, President

Summer is now upon us and, for many, the focus is on summer vacations and family outings. For many not-for-profits, this is a relatively slow time of year, and this also is reflected within AMSAT’s activities as well. While our Engineering Team remains quite busy preparing for upcoming launches, the overall tempo of activities seems to slow down during the summer months.

By now, as an AMSAT member, you should have received a packet of materials that includes a ballot for the AMSAT Board of Directors election, the Candidate’s Statement sheet, a letter from the AMSAT Board of Directors outlining the current state of the organization’s activities, an information and registration form for the upcoming AMSAT Space Symposium to take place in October in Reno, NV, and a donation form. Please take the time to review the candidate’s statements and decide for whom you’ll be voting.

We have five candidates for four positions. The individual who comes in fifth place in the balloting will become our single Board Alternate for the next year. Your vote makes a difference in the election outcome, and I ask that you exercise your right as an AMSAT member to select the individuals who will serve a two-year term on the board. Ballots must arrive at the AMSAT office in Kensington, MD, no later than September 15 to be counted. Please don’t procrastinate on voting; mark your ballot and mail it “now.” Those candidates in the top four vote tally will join the three board members elected in 2016 who have another year of service on the board.

The letter from the AMSAT Board provides an overview of key AMSAT Engineering Projects and the status of our four CubeSats expected to be launched in late 2017 and 2018. Please be aware that launch schedules are beyond AMSAT’s control. The letter was drafted in late June was “current” at that time, but of course things can change. One example is the modification to RadFxSat/Fox- 1B which is part of ELaNa-XIV and as of mid-July is now expected to fly no earlier than October 12, 2017.

Building and launching amateur satellites is a time consuming and expensive process. AMSAT depends upon donations for the capital necessary to create the satellites and secure launches. Please consider making a mid-year donation to AMSAT in support of our programs as well as ARISS. It is incumbent upon all of us to help provide the resources necessary to “Keep Amateur Radio in Space.” Thank you.

AMSAT Space Symposium & Annual Meeting 

The packet also includes information concerning the 35th AMSAT Space Symposium & Annual Meeting to take place the weekend of October 27 in Reno, NV. Details about the Symposium can be found on the AMSAT website under the “Events” tab. Attendees may register by completing either (1) the registration form that was included with the mailed ballot materials and returning it to the AMSAT office, or (2) the online form accessible through the AMSAT Store. The registration fee also includes receiving the Proceedings of the 35th AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual Meeting. Register by September 15 to take advantage of a lower registration fee ($45.00). Also, those attending the Saturday night banquet — including spouses or other family members — must register for that event ($45.00/person). Additionally, those wishing to attend the Field Operations Area Coordinators’ Breakfast on Sunday morning need to register for that event ($15.00/person). However, those wishing to attend only the Field Ops meeting, but not partake in the breakfast buffet, may do so for free, but we ask that you notify Martha that you plan to attend the meeting so that adequate space is made available for attendees.

Attendees also must make their own room reservations with the host hotel (Silver Legacy Resort, 407 N Virginia Street). Details on the hotel can be found in the Symposium Flyer or on the AMSAT website; a link to the hotel to make your reservation is available through the AMSAT website (www.amsat.org/symposium-hotel). The room rate is $110.00/night + taxes and fees on Friday and Saturday night and $65.00/night + taxes and fees the proceeding Tuesday-Thursday nights and Sunday-Tuesday nights following Symposium if you intend to stay at the hotel either before or after the Symposium itself.

While it may be possible to find less expensive accommodations at other venues during Symposium, please be part of the AMSAT block, as rooms reserved under our block code are counted in the overall commitment that AMSAT has made to the hotel. In return, the hotel provides AMSAT access to our meeting rooms at no charge. Thus, blocked room reservations help justify our free meeting space at the hotel.

An essential part of the Symposium is the presentation of papers that are included in the Proceedings. I’m looking forward to hearing these presentations and reading the papers in this year’s Proceedings. If you have an idea or an observation that you want to expand upon and present at Symposium, please consider sharing your thoughts through a submission for inclusion in the Proceedings. Please contact our Proceedings editor, Dan Schultz, N8FGV ([email protected]), and advise him of your interest in writing for this year’s Symposium. He will provide you with the submission deadline and guidance on how to prepare your paper Proceedings. Our Keynote Speaker will be Mr. Garrett Skrobot, Sr., who serves as Mission Manager of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) at NASA Headquarters. Given that three of our Fox-1 CubeSats have been accepted into the ELaNa program, Garrett’s presentation should be of particular interest to AMSAT members.

Please check the AMSAT website (www.amsat.org) for updates on Symposium, including activities on Sunday and Monday following Symposium. Any planned activities will require registration through the AMSAT Store (www.amsat.org/shop/) once details are confirmed.

AMSAT IT Developments

A revamped AMSAT website was placed online in late June. Along with a new “look and feel,” significant enhancements are built into the “back end” that will allow AMSAT to integrate additional IT functions in the future. Among those will be integration of the AMSAT membership database with our web presence, which will provide the ability for AMSAT members to update address changes and review the status of their AMSAT membership online. We also expect that over time we will offer website content tailored exclusively for AMSAT members as a benefit of AMSAT membership.

The AMSAT Store is also updated with improved security and features. Given the rewrite, users are asked to provide a new login password the first time they access the new Store by asking for “password reset.” Note that your new login “name” is either (1) the e-mail address associated with your AMSAT membership, or (2) if you don’t have an e-mail address on file, your [email protected] (presuming your callsign is current in the AMSAT membership database). If your login “name” is indeed a current e-mail address, and you request a password reset, you will receive an e-mail outlining the steps needed to specify a new password. Please note that your account has remained secure as a result of the revisions to the AMSAT Store. Details on how to change your password can be found on the AMSAT website at www.amsat.org/18033-2/

My thanks to Joe Fitzgerald, KM1P, for leading AMSAT’s IT development efforts and managing the process handled by Milltown Web Design of Boston, MA, to create the new site. Bruce Paige, KK5DO, has managed the AMSAT Store transition, ensuring that our product offerings are now included in the new online store. Paul Stoetzer, N8HM, has responded to many of the queries received for AMSAT Store password resets as well.

With some initial glitches that were quickly resolved, the overall response to our new web presence appears to be positive gauging by AMSAT Store activity. In the first two weeks after launching the new AMSAT Store, purchases have grown significantly with items such as WRAPS boards, AMSAT shirts, the 2017 edition of Getting Started in Amateur Satellites, and antenna sales all seeing a noticeable bump in sales.

The new store also allows AMSAT to manage the collection of sales tax for online purchases going to the State of Maryland. While we are a not-for- profit organization, the state does require the collection of sales tax by nonprofits when offering tangible goods for purchase within the state. Effective July 21, 2017, we started collecting Maryland sales tax for hardware and software, but memberships are not subject to sales tax. Items shipped to destinations outside of Maryland will be not assessed Maryland sales tax.

Other enhancements to the AMSAT Store include easier management of shipping arrangements for items going overseas as well as the ability to easily update the store as new items become available. Please check out the AMSAT Store from time-to-time as we continue to offer expanded product offerings.

With a new website structure that is significantly improved over the prior one, we now need to focus on web content, providing timely information and articles that will enhance the quality of our website in support of “Keeping Amateur Radio in Space.” If you are interested in helping us develop web content and managing our web presence, please send an e-mail to [email protected] highlighting your interest and outlining your prior web experience and writing skills that could be put to good use in helping us provide an enhanced web experience.

Shelby Hamfest & Boxboro Convention 

As we approach the end of summer, please note two hamfests where AMSAT will have a presence. The Shelby, NC, Hamfest occurs each Labor Day weekend. The schedule is not yet finalized, but I expect that an AMSAT Forum will take place on Saturday afternoon, September 2, in the Bailey Center across the street from the hamfest venue at the fairgrounds. Presumably, we’ll be presenting late in the afternoon as we’ve done over the past several years. Please check the hamfest website (www.shelbyhamfest.org/forums.html) for details. If you are attending Shelby this year, please plan on attending the AMSAT Forum where we’ll discuss current projects and the future of amateur radio in space. Shelby is a wonderful hamfest, and I certainly enjoy the opportunity to meet those that are attending.

The following weekend September 9-10, the ARRL New England Convention @ Boxboro (MA) takes place. “Boxboro” is shorthand for “Boxborough,” the official name of the hamfest location. For whatever reason, New Englanders seem to enjoy using multiple spellings for the same town name, including on interstate highway signage, which can be confusing for out-of-state visitors.

The hamfest is now an annual event, and we expect AMSAT’s presence will be comparable to our participation in prior years. Ernie Bauer, N1AEW, is our team leader, and he’s organizing the volunteers who will be staffing the AMSAT booth in the commercial area. Two forums are planned: the first is on Saturday when Burns Fisher, W2BFJ, will be discussing AMSAT Engineering projects, and I will be presenting on the AMSAT activities and the state of the organization.

The convention’s Saturday Grand Banquet will feature our own Paul Stoetzer, N8HM, as the keynote speaker. Paul serves as AMSAT Corporate Secretary and current Board Alternate and is a well-known satellite operator. Paul will be discussing “Effective DX and Satellite Operation with Minimal Antennas.” Having Paul join us at Boxboro and presenting to an audience that isn’t that familiar with satellites is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to a target audience of amateurs who may well be receptive to Paul’s presentation given the current conditions found on the HF bands. This is one ARRL Convention Banquet that I’m not going to miss.

On Sunday, Ernie will be making a “Beginner’s Presentation” on getting started on satellites. We also are planning satellite demos near the Flea Market. If you’re attending Boxboro, please stop by the AMSAT booth and say hello as well as take advantage of the AMSAT Forums and satellite demos. Details about the Boxboro Hamfest may be found at www.boxboro.org. I’ve made my hotel reservations for both weekends; I look forward to seeing you at these events!